Friday, April 20 , 2018, 4:04 am | Fair 50º

 
 
 
 

Local News

SBCAG May Go It Alone for Now on Highway 101 Project

As state construction grinds to a halt in cash-strapped California, Measure D funds may loaned so the road can go on.

With California’s fiscal emergency deepening, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments will be meeting Thursday to discuss taking matters into its own hands so the Highway 101 widening project can continue, at least for a while.

SBCAG is offering to lend Caltrans money to cover construction costs as state funding for the project dries up and threatens to halt work this week if a budget is not reached. Because of California’s weak credit rating, lack of cash reserves and inability to sell bonds, transportation projects around the state have ground to a halt. But actually stopping the work comes at a steep price; Caltrans estimates it will cost nearly $400 million to halt and later resume work on these bond-funded projects statewide. For Santa Barbara’s highway project between Hot Springs Road and Milpas Street, it could cost as much as $5 million.

Last month, SBCAG authorized negotiations on a loan agreement between the organization and Caltrans, which would use Measure D funds to continue the project. SBCAG staff believes up to $2 million of the funds can be used without affecting other budget items. In that case, the project could be kept afloat for the next couple of months. Additional funding from federal stimulus monies allotted to roadways could also help extend the project for another month. The project is one of the largest undertaken by the county, with construction costs hovering around $53 million.

Another option the board could take involves using local funds to purchase general obligation bonds that would allow Caltrans to continue working on the project. The viability of this option is still under review.

Because of chaos in Sacramento, SBCAG is waiting to see whether funding for transportation projects will be suspended, said Gregg Hart, SBCAG’s government affairs coordinator.

“They want to make a crisis to ratchet up the pressure to solve the problem, but they don’t want to incur the costs of stopping the project,” Hart said.

Weather has also kept the status of the project in limbo, forcing construction to stop after rain began to fall.

SBCAG meets at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in the Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, 105 E. Anapamu St., fourth floor. The meeting will also be shown live on CSBTV Channel 20.

At the Capitol, meanwhile, the state Senate remained in lockdown mode Wednesday as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders stepped up their efforts to convince Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, to buck his party and vote to approve their budget deal. The package includes $16 billion in spending cuts, up to $11 billion in Wall Street loans and more than $14 billion in tax hikes. Because tax increases require a two-thirds majority vote for passage, unified Democrats need to pick off one Republican to achieve the threshold.

Write to [email protected]

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.


Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >